Healthy Living in the North

Equine facilitated wellness in Nazko

A woman poses, holding the legs of a young boy who is standing on top of a saddled horse in a field.

Jarius Boyd, youth participant, and Santania Grant, nurse and one of the creators of the program.

Drumming surrounds the round pen. An Elder smudges the horses with juniper.  The sounds of horses moving about fill the air, while youth take it all in.  This an opportunity for youth to learn about smudging, the benefits of it, and experience it for themselves.

Nazko is a First Nations community 100 km west of Quesnel, with 407 Nazko band members and approximately half living on Nazko land. The Nazko people are part of the Carrier Nation.

“When [I was asked] to come and smudge the horses off, instantly it was a yes,” says Nazko Elder Dennis Patrick. “I grew up riding horses in Trout Lake outside of Nazko; it was a way of life and it helped us to do our work. We rode almost every day as kids. We did our work/chores on horses but as children it brought us a lot of joy and play time. I like watching how the kids are interacting with the horses and learning how to act in a way that keeps them safe and respects the animal. As a Nazko Elder, it brings me great joy to see our children outside working and playing with horses. To my way of thinking, this is health.”

Santania Grant is a nurse at the Nazko Health Center alongside Health Director Anita Andreychuk. They both felt that there was a gap in youth programming and that a youth focused equine program would be a natural fit. Santania, who made a living working with horses prior to becoming a nurse, developed the program in use today, and delivers this program as an independent contractor.

A young girl in a red hoodie stands next to a horse that is decorated with paint.

Youth participant Nevaeh Boyd stands with Rio, the kind and gentle horse central to the equine facilitated wellness work. Photo by Santania Grant.

“Horses are not new to Nazko,” says Santania about the youth equine facilitated wellness program in Nazko. “Elders talk to me about their parents or grandparents who rode. Horses were a way of life for the Nazko people.”

The equine facilitated wellness (EFW) builds on this tradition and helps support wellness, healing, and self-discovery through engaging with horses.

While working with horses, caring from them, learning how to lead them, tuning into their feelings, and riding them, the youth embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Rio is the horse central to this EFW work. Safety is crucial to any EFW program and Rio is just the horse for this. She is kind and gentle. According to Santania, equine partners (horses) can help youth overcome trauma and adversity through their gentle connection.

Along with learning to ride, the youth create dream boards of their personal goals with the help of Lyndsey Rhea, Aboriginal Patient Liaison (APL) from G.R. Baker Hospital. They also learn about healthy eating and receive nutritious meals and snacks.

A young boy wearing a hockey helmet, holding a rope tied to a horse, looks up at a man holding feathers and items for smudging.

Greyson Laurent, a youth participant in the program. Photo by Santania Grant.

“I have been lucky to be involved with the Youth EFW program in Nazko,” says Lyndsey. “As the APL, it’s a good opportunity for me to get to know the kids and their parents and to build relationships and help address any healthcare needs. I have been able to work with the kids to set healthy goals and dreams by making vision boards. Santania is an amazing facilitator and makes every child feel safe and special. It’s amazing to see how proud the youth are as they begin to learn new skills.”

Families in Nazko come to watch the youth and build connections with the rest of the healthcare team and health services professionals. This program creates a culturally safe space where participants and families feel respected and free from discrimination, and where healing from intergenerational traumas from colonialism and residential school can occur.

“The EFW helps to build self-esteem, healthy habits, and pride and is an asset to the entire community,” says Lyndsey.

Santania explains that some of the youth that gave her the hardest time have really flourished. Some of these youth are even mentoring other youth and sharing knowledge they have gained.

Through EFW, horses can assist youth cultivate empathy and respect for the environment, leadership skills, and teamwork. This program has been running for two summers and is very popular among Nazko youth ages 5-15.

For more information about the equine program in Nazko contact Santania Grant grantsantania@gmail.com or Lyndsey Rhea Lyndsey.rhea@northernhealth.ca.

A young boy holds up a poster board, titled Dream Board, with magazine cut outs of horses and cowboys.

Laine Clement shares his dream board of his personal goals. Photo by Santania Grant.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Devin Kvist – Critical Care Nurse (Quesnel)

“We bake each other cookies, shovel each other’s driveways, that’s the type of community we have here.” See why Devon loves living in Quesnel.

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IMAGINE Grants: Making space for youth in Quesnel

Youth play a variety of tabletop games, like air hockey and a basketball game.

Sometimes teenagers get a bad rap. Maybe it’s the loud music, or the tendency to travel in packs, but they’re often regarded with undeserved suspicion. And even when they do get into trouble, they often aren’t bad kids, just bored kids. When Rebekah Harding of Reformation House in Quesnel looked at the youth in her community, she saw that many of them had barriers to accessing sports like hockey or soccer, and no safe place to hang out. To keep young people from drifting into substance use and other potentially dangerous choices, she decided to take action.

Reformation House’s youth lounge: creating a safe space for teens in Quesnel

In fall of 2018, Reformation House applied for an IMAGINE Community Grant to establish a youth lounge in downtown Quesnel. The safe, clean space where kids could gather and hang out would offer games, activities, and snacks. The group purchased a variety of game tables, installed a TV and a concession, and opened their doors in January 2019.

The response was amazing. From the beginning, it was clear that kids were responding to having a space to call their own. Youth from Quesnel and other communities came to play pool and foosball, watch movies, sing karaoke, and just chill. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive – more than one visitor said that if it wasn’t for the lounge, they likely wouldn’t leave their home at all except to go to school.

Improving the health of teens and the community: the work continues

While there’s still lots of work to be done, Reformation House is committed to continuing their work on the youth lounge. Future plans include developing new partnerships in the community, expanding marketing, and making the space available for event rentals. The IMAGINE Community Grants program is proud to support groups who take steps to make their communities healthier places!

IMAGINE grant applications open in September

The application window for IMAGINE Community Grants opens on September 1 and closes September 30, 2019. The program accepts applications that promote health in a wide range of areas, including:

  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Community food security
  • Injury prevention and safety
  • Mental health and wellness
  • Prevention of substance harms
  • Smoking and vaping reduction
  • Healthy aging
  • Healthy schools
  • …and more!

For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants webpage today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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G.R. Baker’s gardens are blossoming thanks to two volunteers

A bed of flowers is pictured.

The flower gardens at GR Baker Memorial Hospital are meant lift up people in the hospital.

G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital’s gardens are flourishing in Quesnel, thanks to the help of keen gardeners and local support. For the past seven years, next-door neighbours Wilma and Joan have volunteered their time to maintain the gardens with the goal of raising the spirits of hospital patients, staff, and visitors.

“We both just love gardening,” says Joan. “It’s our passion, just absolutely love it!”

The pair have over 20 years of gardening experience and are active in the Quesnel gardening community. They both feel very proud to give back to their community in this way.

Flowers are in a commemorative stone box,Back in 2012, the hospital first approached the pair to pull out overgrown junipers and plant flowers. In the early years, the gardens were not properly maintained and the pair had a limited budget. Wilma and Joan took it upon themselves to not only take care of the gardens, but to head into the community and approach local businesses for support.

Over the years, local businesses have donated flowers, plants, trees, birdbaths, and other garden décor.

“The businesses have been great and helped out immensely,” says Wilma. G.R. Baker maintenance staff have also helped with heavy trimming, and watering the flowerpots around the facility.

Today, Joan and Wilma, with staff, and local businesses, maintain several gardens in front of the hospital. They start in the spring, meeting twice a month to clear debris from the fall and prepare the garden beds for the upcoming year. In the warmer months, they’re on site more often, checking in on the gardens, watering, and caring for plants. While they’re on site, many visitors stop and say what a wonderful job they do.

Both Wilma and Joan are long-time residents of Quesnel, and say their “whole goal for the grounds is to cheer someone up who’s having a rough patch at the hospital.”

They hope this project can be a source of inspiration for all communities.

“We want people to keep an eye out for their next-door neighbour who’s elderly and can’t do their yard. Think ‘pay it forward.’ If everyone did that, it would just be really neat in our communities.”

 

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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Our People: Spotlight on Lyndsey Rhea, Aboriginal Patient Liaison

On a dirt road with a creek in the background, a man in a motorized wheelchair holds a beige horse. Lyndsey stands to their right.

Stan Boyd (left) from Nazko First Nation and Lyndsey Rhea (right).

Lyndsey Rhea is an Aboriginal Patient Liaison (APL) from Quesnel, BC. Her career as an APL started in 2010, when she began working at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George. In 2011, the same role opened up in her home town and she was quick to make the move to G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel, where she’s worked since May 2011.

Not sure what an APL is? Check out “What are APLs and what do they do?

Why did you choose your career?

I attended UNBC in Prince George and received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. I’ve always had an interest in medicine and, through a practicum placement in my fourth year, I learned about the APL role.

APLs have a unique role. We can act as a bridge for the medical system, Aboriginal patients, and communities. I’m passionate about Aboriginal health and making sure that patients receive high-quality, culturally safe care. The APL role combines medical, social work, and Aboriginal components into one job!

How did you end up at NH?

After my practicum placement, I worked as a casual Social Worker and APL in Prince GeorgeI’m from Quesnel, so I was very happy when the APL role came up [in Quesnel] and I was able to move back to my home community.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into your kind of career?

It’s definitely a very rewarding career! Every day is different, which makes for an exciting and challenging job. I’m always learning something new, and have learned so much about local traditions and history from the Elders in my area. It’s also a good idea to look into volunteering opportunities that are in the field of your interest. Here in Quesnel, we have a Junior Volunteer Program that is a great way to get an understanding of what it might be like to work in a hospital.

Lyndsey Rhea sits at a desk at G.R. Baker Hospital.

Lyndsey Rhea at G.R. Baker Hospital.

What does a day in the life of an APL look like?

On a typical day, the first thing I do is go to our daily huddle on the inpatient unit. From there, I can plan my day. I would then see the patients who are in the hospital, help to support them throughout their stay, and help plan for their discharge.

I work in all areas of the hospital, including the emergency room, intensive care unit, acute care, psychiatry, and with residents in long-term care. I also work with clients in the community to help them navigate the health care system. This might include a home visit or attending a doctor’s appointment with a patient to help them advocate for their health care needs. Another big part of my job includes working with the First Nations Health Authority for things like patient travel, medical supplies and equipment, and prescription coverage.

I’m lucky to be able to work with our local communities and take part in events in both urban and community settings. Recently, I helped with an Equine Wellness event for youth in Nazko. I attend health fairs and other community events. I’ve found a huge benefit in getting to know community members outside of the hospital, so if they do need my services, I’m a familiar face.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an APL?

The most rewarding part to me has been the relationships that I have built with Elders, patients, and local First Nations communities. I’ve been able to work with new moms having their first babies, Elders who are passing away, and everything in between. Accessing health care can be stressful and it is rewarding to know that I have been able to help patients go through the medical system easier.

What’s your favourite part about living where you do?

I like that Quesnel is such a close-knit community. We may lack resources compared to a larger centre, but the service providers in our community are able to work together to come up with creative ideas and solutions. Because Quesnel is a smaller community, I’m able to build relationships and connect with patients and clients in a way that is not possible in larger cities.

12 members of the G.R. Baker staff are wearing orange shirts in support of Orange Shirt Day.

Lyndsey and other G.R. Baker Hospital staff support Orange Shirt Day.

How can patients get a referral to work with an APL?

I have a very casual/informal referral process. Referrals come by phone. Patients are welcome to self refer, or I can get calls from doctors, nurses, First Nations health teams, or family members. Patients do not need to have a status card or be admitted to the hospital to use APL services.

What’s your favourite thing to do outside work?

Last summer, I started paddle boarding and can’t wait for the warmer weather so I can get out on the lake with friends. I also play the fiddle and enjoy doing that as often as I can.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Staff food hamper helping feed seniors in Quesnel

Elizabeth standing next to a box of non-perishable food.

Elizabeth Onciul, NH Care Aide, with one of the food hampers at Dunrovin Lodge in Quesnel.

Staff at Dunrovin Lodge have recognized co-worker Elizabeth Onciul for her dedication to seniors in Quesnel.

For over three months, Elizabeth, a care aide at Dunrovin Lodge, has set up food hampers at work to collect donations for seniors.

“You know the saying, these are our ‘golden years?’ Well that’s not always true,” says Elizabeth. “Our seniors have worked hard and shouldn’t have to worry if they will have enough for tomorrow’s meals.”

The collected food is then donated to a small community group in Quesnel. The anonymous group distributes the food to seniors in low income housing and to over 50 seniors in the community. Staff donate, on average, two large boxes and they’ve started to add bags of fruit on donation pickup days.

“Our staff has been very generous in their donations as we only ask for one non-perishable item per month,” Elizabeth explains.

Elizabeth first got the idea when speaking with her sister-in-law, whose workplace had a similar program set up to help seniors pay for food and medications. Elizabeth got the number of the community group and set up a pickup time.

Great work, Elizabeth, for seeing a need and making a positive impact on the senior community in Quesnel! Also, a big thank you to the rest of the staff in Quesnel for donating food and helping Elizabeth with this awesome initiative!

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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Bringing care to where the people are – nurse on Mobile Support Team brings care to Carrier Nations

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

A sewing machine and handbag.

Jolene organizes community events as a way for people to disconnect from trauma, stress, or anxiety. The handbag making workshop was a big success!

“I know that I need to be flexible in my role. I need to be ready when the people are ready,” says Jolene Pagurut, a nurse on the Mobile Support Team in Quesnel.

Jolene travels to provide mental health and wellness support to three Southern Carrier Nations around Quesnel – Lhoosk’uz, Ndazko, and Lhtako. This Mobile Support Team is a partnership with Northern Health, First Nations Health Authority, and the three nations. The communities have renamed this Mobile Support Team to “Dakelh Wellness.” Dakelh is the Carrier word for Carrier.

“The best part of this position is the people from the communities I serve – being able to help people along their healing journey in a good way,” says Jolene. “The support of Northern Health, the community leaders, elders, and First Nations Health Authority makes it possible to use traditional and creative interventions to meet people where they are at and to help them reach their wellness goals. Really, so much of the success of this program is the partnership with NH and the community leaders.”

Right now, Jolene is the only team member, but works very closely with the team of health care professionals that provide primary and community care in Quesnel. A social worker will be joining Dakelh Wellness on May 15, and they’re looking for a counsellor for the team as well.

Jolene works to help people overcome the discrepancies in the social determinants of health, including things like low-income, housing, access to food, and other challenges with navigating the health care system. She supports individuals who live on and off reserve. Many of them are couch surfing or homeless and she’ll go to help them where they’re at – in their homes, on the riverbank, in a homeless shelter, or on the street.

A selection of baked goods.

Jolene has also gotten people together to make baked goods for the Elders.

This is Jolene’s third year in the role and she’s now better known in the community. She now knows where the people are. Jolene often receives messages from family members who will let her know they’re worried about a family member and tell her where they can find them. Jolene will go to them, wherever they may be at the time, and bring them a coffee or water and sit with them, listen, and help with setting goals with where they’re at. The next time she meets with them, she’ll help them move towards their bigger goals.

“My hope is that when I find them somewhere, I’ll leave them in a better place than when I found them. This often involves using harm reduction strategies and lowering barriers to receiving health care. For example, providing naloxone training and kits, or talking to someone who’s using IV heroin about smoking instead, or giving them new needles,” says Jolene. “The next time I meet them, they might be interested in hearing about the Suboxone program.”

The people that Jolene works with are overcoming so many challenges; many are homeless or live over two hours away from Quesnel. Some individuals have challenges with reading and writing, and Jolene is able to help them with filling out forms or better understanding medications. Jolene will also help by taking them to the pharmacy, or connecting with the pharmacist and making a plan to get the medication out to them in the community. They work to help their patients overcome the barriers in creative and meaningful ways.

“Filling a prescription when the person lives two hours away can be like a relay race – we get the prescription at the pharmacy in Quesnel and can get it on a medical van to one community and another community member can bring it to the final destination. We work hard and make it happen,” says Jolene.

Jolene also organizes community events as a way for people to disconnect from trauma, stress, or anxiety. She held a handbag making workshop last week. The intent was to train the elders to make the handbags and then they would teach the youth.

It turned out that some of the Elders were experts at sewing and were farther ahead than expected; they had to provide additional projects for them to work on. The youth also caught on very quickly and were soon helping the Elders. The event was a huge success, with people showing up at 8 am and staying until midnight. In the past, Jolene has also organized a food-dehydrating workshop and a canning workshop.

“It’s all about listening to what they want to do,” says Jolene.

Some of the other work Jolene does includes managing people with severe and persistent mental illness, working with the methadone doctor and doing Suboxone inductions, and referring individuals or families to treatment. She works with the team of health care professionals in the community and connects patients to the team for other services when needed, and will also attend doctor’s appointments with the patient. She strongly advocates for the patient. If she’s already in the community for a visit and something else comes up, like a dressing change on a wound or a baby check, she’ll use Skype or Telehealth and connect the family to a doctor right away.

“I’m working to help people increase their safety and support. I’m a safe person to talk to who can connect them to more people for physical, emotional, mental, spiritual support. I’m building on what’s already there with such resilient people,” says Jolene.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Creating a smoke-free community

This article was co-written by Nancy Viney (tobacco reduction, Northern Health), Rhya Hartley (City of Quesnel), and the Quesnel Healthier Community Committee. It was originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine.


Poster with information about bylaw 1767

The new smoke-free bylaw was promoted through the City’s Bylaw of the Month campaign.

The City of Quesnel promotes a healthy environment for all to enjoy. In November 2015, Quesnel City Council adopted Bylaw No. 1767 “A Bylaw to Regulate Smoking in City of Quesnel Public Spaces,” which prohibits smoking in some specific community spaces as well as designated playgrounds and playing fields where children may be at play.

Quesnel joined 59 other municipalities in B.C. who have a bylaw limiting where you can use tobacco in outdoor spaces. Although many municipalities have implemented smoking regulations, Quesnel and Dawson Creek are leaders in the north.

Why a bylaw to regulate smoking?

Quesnel supports healthy community initiatives for its residents! Through integrated processes like parks planning, active transportation planning, the recently adopted Living Wage Policy, and our active rebranding project, the City of Quesnel is positioning itself as a balanced, healthy community in which to live, work, and play. The new smoke-free bylaw and the work supported by the Partnering for Healthier Communities grant fits into this approach.

Exposure to second-hand smoke from burning tobacco products causes disease and premature death among non-smokers. Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke as they breathe faster and are exposed to even more smoke. The new bylaw reduces the harmful effects of tobacco smoke for the residents and visitors of Quesnel.

Supportive smoke-free environments help people who have quit using tobacco to remain steadfast and also encourage tobacco users to quit. Education today on the harmful effects of smoking and second-hand smoke is key to ensuring our children don’t start smoking and helps to make everyone aware of our environment.

The bylaw also helps reduce the amount of litter from butts and discarded cigarette packaging. Cigarette filters litter the ground and do not biodegrade. During the hot, dry summer months, smoke-free bylaws can also reduce the risk of fire from discarded matches and tobacco products.

Sign reading: "Healthy lungs at play"As with any new initiative, there has been some push back and enforcement issues. To date, bylaw staff in Quesnel have addressed this with education and they will be transitioning to ticketing.

The City of Quesnel partnered with Northern Health and many other community stakeholders to form the Quesnel Healthier Community Committee in 2012. In 2016, this committee received a Partnering for Healthier Communities grant from Northern Health for their “Creating a Tobacco-Free Community” initiative. The committee resolved to use the grant funding for education and to purchase and install signage in strategic public areas. The committee decided that a sign that portrayed those most at risk from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke would move the focus to social conscience.

Have questions about smoke- and vape-free outdoor public places? Learn more from the Canadian Cancer Society.

Does your local government have a Healthier Community Committee? How can your local government work with partners towards your community’s healthy living goals?

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Bringing out the best: Breastfeeding, the World Health Organization and Quesnel

Mothers seated on couch breastfeeding infants.

Breastfeeding moms and babies at Quesnel Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge in October 2015.

Living in one of northern B.C.’s smaller communities, you may not expect to be able to access globally-recognized, high quality training opportunities for free, right on your own doorstep. Yet this is exactly what a very successful initiative in Quesnel has been able to do.

The Baby Friendly Advisory Committee (BFAC) worked to successfully increase rates of initiation for breastfeeding at GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel. They recently widened their focus to increasing breastfeeding duration support in the community.

Benefits of breastfeeding

The benefits of breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life are well researched, with numerous health benefits for mother and baby. The goal is to increase the number of babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (as recommended by Health Canada). Exclusive means that they receive nothing but breast milk until they are six months old (i.e., no solid foods, no water or breast milk substitutes) unless it is medically necessary. In order to meet this goal, the Baby Friendly Advisory Committee felt it was important to engage the community to support breastfeeding mothers. So, in November 2015, they offered a three day training using the World Health Organization breastfeeding course –a required course for every maternity nurse.

Breastfeeding course

The three day course was held at the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre –a child-friendly space. “The room had couches and tables and a kitchen for the participants – which included five breastfeeding moms as well as eight interested service providers,” says Bev Barr, Pregnancy Outreach Program Coordinator and BFAC co-chair, who was tasked with coordinating this initiative. “It was originally planned for April but we decided to postpone until November and commit to advertising and promotion.”

The group was determined to address potential barriers that are unique to breastfeeding moms. The final plan, in order to make the training accessible, included making the course free, choosing a location with free parking, making sure healthy lunches and refreshments were provided and – of most importance – ensuring child care arrangements for breastfeeding moms were in place. As a result, the final group included five breastfeeding moms among the attendees. “We all learned about breastfeeding while holding babies.”

“We had no idea how this would go,” says Bev, “and I was incredibly overwhelmed at how positive the response was, especially during that first day because of the high level of technical information. That day is very medically-focused, covering the physiology of breastfeeding, the nutritional composition of breast milk, and the health benefits to mother and baby. The next two days look at more practical issues and problem solving. The participants loved it all! At the end of the first day, they were talking about how much they hadn’t known and how much more they wanted to know.”

“What we have now is a well-informed and knowledgeable cohort who can support success in initiation and duration of exclusive breastfeeding in the community. Already we have heard three service providers say they are using the information in every visit. The course, in some ways, is bringing back networks of breastfeeding support that used to exist in many families and communities. It’s vital we have this capacity and knowledge in the community.”

Breastfeeding mother

Breastfeeding course participant Dawn Giesbrecht feeds baby Oliver.

Population health approach

It strikes me, as I reflect on my conversation with Bev, that this small, impactful project exemplifies some of the most important principles of Northern Health’s population health approach. The population health approach argues we need to get “upstream” on the river of diseases and causes of poor health in northern B.C. That is, addressing risk factors before they cause ill health is preferable to treating symptoms later on.

What are the principles shown by the BFAC project?

Do it right, not fast was obvious in the decision to wait and build readiness and interest in the audience group. Share what you have to offer and let the group do the work was evident in the willingness to offer a top-flight training opportunity and trust the group to rise to the occasion.

Understanding and addressing the specific barriers to participation that are unique to the group is also key. In this case, providing food, free parking, comfy chairs and a willingness to have babies in the room addressed a set of barriers that can exclude nursing mothers. Capitalizing on the passion and knowledge professionals can bring was also prominent in this work.

Partnership and collaboration were integral. In Quesnel, Northern Health was present in the room with professional expertise and insights and with concrete supports that addressed barriers to participation. At same time, Northern Health was sitting alongside its community members, learning with the community. Learning together is a way to build strong relationships and new connections that strengthen capacity to address issues of local importance.

Underscoring this, of course, is the passionate commitment of the working group who have dedicated years of service to supporting breastfeeding best practices in Quesnel. The BFAC is collaborative and includes representation from a number of individuals and groups. These torchbearers have lit a fire under the participants. The only request of participants was that they would commit to sharing their new knowledge and implement it in their own personal and professional circles. Many are now inspired and seeking additional training because of this opportunity.

The enthusiastic response of the participants to the training and their willingness to work with the new knowledge has given Quesnel a new and strong cadre of breastfeeding champions. The project also points the way to success. In a quiet and unassuming way, Northern Health professionals showed that partnership and population health are important parts of the good work in and by community to improve the health of northerners.


  • Do you have a breastfeeding story or experience to share? Tell us what breastfeeding means to you, your family, and your community by entering Northern Health’s World Breastfeeding Week contest before October 7!
  • This work was supported in part by an IMAGINE Community Grant. IMAGINE grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities.
  • Read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.
  • This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story in the Spring 2016 issue:

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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Building spaces where everyone can play

Playground

Healthy community projects don’t happen overnight. Quesnel’s first accessible playground – with a grand opening scheduled for September 15, 2016 – provides a blueprint for success.

Brooke and MacKenzie are twin sisters who cannot play together at Quesnel’s playgrounds. While MacKenzie scampers up and down stairs and slides, Brooke’s chase stops the moment her wheelchair gets stuck in the pea gravel. To help the girls play together, Brooke’s parents carry her around the playground.

Brooke and MacKenzie’s situation is hardly unique, and neither is the fact that Quesnel didn’t, until recently, have any accessible playgrounds. Chances are the playground closest to you has pea gravel, steps, ladders, and other features that make it difficult for kids and adults alike to enjoy. Because it’s not just Brooke and MacKenzie who can’t play together. It’s the family with the baby stroller that can’t roll through the gravel to watch their toddler go down the slide; it’s the grandparents with walkers who are left watching grandkids from afar when a ledge gets in the way; it’s the children with leg braces who can only look on as their friends race over traditionally uneven surfaces.

But this is all about to change in Quesnel and, as it turns out, the answer to the question, “how can Brooke and MacKenzie play together?” provides a valuable blueprint of how a healthy community project can take shape in your town.

Two people assembling playground equipment.

The Quesnel Accessible Playground was a project four years in the making for Sandy Meidlinger (right), who was involved in the project team that made it happen.

Fresh from the excitement of a long-awaited playground build event on May 28, 2016, I chatted with Sandy Meidlinger with the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre, who tells the story from here:

This project started in 2012 when Brooke and MacKenzie’s mom came to me and asked for help to get an accessible playground built in Quesnel. I’m a member of the Parent Child Resource Team (a group of service providers and parents) and we agreed this would be a valuable long-term project for us to take on. Having a team was crucial! Our committee included parents, health care professionals, local agencies, government and school district representatives, and others.

When we asked community members for letters of support for this project, the response was overwhelming! Why? Until now, there was no playground in Quesnel accessible to people with mobility needs. I’m talking baby strollers, walkers, leg braces, scooters, and more. In Quesnel alone, there are over 100 children who, because of complex developmental profiles, can’t participate in many play activities on typical playgrounds. These kids are cut off from a typical family activity of playing at the park. An accessible playground increases physical activity levels for everyone, promotes inclusive family enjoyment, and helps children with mobility issues develop independence.

Volunteers assembling playground

On the day of the build, 25 volunteers and professionals came together to assemble the park.

Our first step was to present to the City of Quesnel and Cariboo Regional District joint planning committee. Both groups agreed in principle to support the idea. Connecting with government early was key to getting support for things later in the process like ongoing playground inspection and maintenance. There’s a wonderful legacy component to this project, too, as the city has committed to incorporating accessible aspects into all future park updates.

With government support in place, we looked for a location. The Quesnel & District Arts & Recreation Centre had an old playground in disrepair so we asked about making this the site of the new playground. The Centre and their governing bodies were on board! This location was ideal because it’s central and on a bus route; the Centre will be using the playground daily for inclusive programs; and they offer accessible parking, doors, and washrooms.

Levelling rubber surface.

The recycled rubber surface replaced pea gravel, which is difficult to use for those with mobility needs.

The next step was to research playground developers. We settled on Habitat Systems. They took our ideas and created a design. We then asked therapists, play specialists, parents, and children about the plan; Habitat tweaked the design. The final proposal was about more than just mobility – there are sensory toys, considerations for visual impairments, and other equipment for integrated, inclusive play.

We then started the long and sometimes frustrating work of fundraising. We wrote lots of grant proposals; I presented to local agencies; we wrote letters to local businesses; and we all chatted with anyone interested in accessibility. Our generous community really stepped up! We managed to fundraise over $200,000!

We finally got to the day of the build. About 25 volunteers and professionals spent 13 hours assembling the park. The recycled rubber surface was poured the following week. The park is open for use this summer and our grand opening is scheduled for September 15!

It’s hard to believe that it took four years but MacKenzie and Brooke – and hundreds of other Quesnel residents – are now able to play together! We now have a space where everyone can play.


The Quesnel Accessible Playground is still fundraising for its last few pieces. To support this project with a tax-deductible donation, contact Sandy Meidlinger at the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre: 250-992-2481, SandyM@QuesnelCDC.com

For project photos and a list of donors, visit the Quesnel Accessible Playground on Facebook.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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